Gioffre now has a home-delivery service, a farm and an organic shop in Mount Evelyn. The next step in her Organic Empire business is an “outdoor supermarket”.
She wants to educate people about food and plans to open her farm once a week so people can harvest their own vegetables. It’s like picking your own strawberries but on a bigger scale, and people will be trained before being allowed onto the farm to dig up the produce.
Attending a sustainable food conference in 2011 was a turning point for Gioffre. Within six weeks she had bought a one-hectare farm in the Yarra Valley. Gioffre had been running a successful organic fruit and vegetable home-delivery service since 2008 but buying land in Mount Evelyn was a real commitment to growing her own produce.
The Organic Empire Food Store opened the next year. Gioffre renovated a 1930s general store and former chicken shop on the property. She recycled 100-year-old timber floors to create rustic shelving and polished the original concrete floor. Old fruit boxes from a family farm were used for displays and all packaging is in paper bags. “It’s a tiny store in the middle of a country lane but people are travelling here from all over Melbourne.”
Out the back, on the farm, Gioffre is growing a range of vegetables including kale, cabbage, leeks, cauliflower, broccoli, edible flowers, herbs and broad beans.
She sources additional produce in the Yarra Valley. Bananas and pineapple or fruits that are out of season in Victoria are bought at the market. Organic meat, raw “bath milk”, nuts and seeds are also stocked.
Kale is going to be the next superfood, says Organic Empire owner and nutritionist Angela Gioffre. “It’s one of the best greens that you can eat.”
It’s being called a “nutritional powerhouse” and the “queen of greens”. Kale is high in iron, calcium, vitamins A, C and K. It also has omega-3 fatty acids and is full of antioxidants.
Gioffre grows three types of kale: Italian black kale (cavolo nero), Russian red and the curly variety.
While it’s lovely cooked in soups or stir-fried, Gioffre likes to combine it with other vegetables in juices.
Her favourite drink is a mix of kale, celery, cucumber, lemon, carrot, ginger and apple.
She believes that people need to be educated about food and holds regular classes in Mount Evelyn.
Now is a good time to buy Kale, which is in season until Christmas, Gioffre says.
Minimum online order is $45. Delivery is $8.95.
Meals Organic fruit and vegetable store
Food Specialty organic kale
Phone 9737 9677
Open Monday and Thursday 10am-5pm, Friday to Saturday 10am-2pm, home delivery available online